How to Overcome Resistance in Non-Profit Work

Change brings resistance. No matter how much it’s desired, there is going to be opposition. This can be as subtle as wanting to revert back to doing things on autopilot. Or it can be as blatant as people withdrawing their support.

You can overcome resistance by identifying your key supporters. These are the people who support the changes even when you are not physically around. They are the ambassadors who directly and indirectly convince others that your vision is the way to go.

I dealt with this while managing an organization that had been doing things the same way for 50 years. 50 years of running on autopilot and maintaining the status quo. The Board of Directors brought me in to change things, and I experienced more resistance than I had in my entire career. Recruiting my key supporters was how I got around it.

My supporters came from every area of the organization. First, I hired a new management team and shared the vision during the recruitment and selection process. I developed a leadership team that supported the direction we were headed. Next I started identifying donors, volunteers, front-line staff, and individual board members who supported our vision. These were the people I emailed regularly, had coffee with, and utilized to help communicate the importance of our vision to others. Over time, these people helped me gain support from those who originally opposed our plans. About 18-months later, the opposing voices became the minority.

If you’re experiencing resistance, it’s because you’re doing something new. Identify the people who are on board with where you’re headed and use their voices to generate more support.

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